Jack-o-lanterns, Halloween decorations, Thanksgiving, and pumpkin pie, this is certainly the pumpkin season. But, do you know that pumpkins can be important year-round for some pets? Pumpkin is a commonly prescribed dietary additive for some gastrointestinal maladies. From diarrhea to constipation, pumpkin can be a dog's (or cat's) best friend.
What is pumpkin for pets?
Pumpkin that's recommended for pets is nothing more than pumpkin that has been pureed. It is a source of fiber that is low in fat and cholesterol. When purchasing pumpkin, it is important to read the label carefully. Pie-filling pumpkin has added ingredients such as sugar, fat, and various seasonings. It is the pure pumpkin product that is recommended.
How can pumpkin help dogs?
Pumpkin can provide a number of health benefits based primarily on its fiber content. Be forewarned that pumpkin is mostly water, to the tune of approximately 90%. This means that the content of fiber is not nearly as much as is found in Metamucil®.
Pumpkin isn't a be-all and end-all remedy for cats and dogs with gastrointestinal issues, but it is a reasonably harmless thing to try. If this has you thinking, "Hmm, maybe I'll give pumpkin a try," It's suggested pumpkin be used in the following ways for some dogs:
- For diarrhea: Fiber can act as a sponge that absorbs excess water within the gastrointestinal tract. Diarrhea has a myriad of causes and added dietary fiber can benefit some of them.
- For constipation: When there isn't excess water in the gastrointestinal tract, fiber can help draw in water and ease stool passage. Fiber can also create bulk within the colon that helps alleviate constipation for some animals.
- For weight loss: Pumpkin provides a relatively low-calorie way to give an animal the sense of a full stomach. This can make the reduction of overall food quantity more tolerable for the dieting animal.
How much pumpkin should you feed?
The amount of pumpkin needed to provide benefit will vary from dog to dog. For example, a Chihuahua may require only a teaspoon per meal, whereas a half cup may be required for a Great Dane. As with any dietary additive, it's best to start small and then work your way up to the appropriate amount. Some animals don't much care for this different tasting orange substance in their food bowl-- another reason to begin with only a small amount that is more readily disguised.
If you are feeding your dog only a small amount of pumpkin daily, consider placing the extra pumpkin in ice cube trays and freezing. Blocks can then be thawed as needed.